Jenn

“What do you want to know about me?” she asked.

“For example, you never told me about this picture. Why do you keep it in your office?” I pointed to the reproduction of Degas’ The Star, Dancer on Stage hanging on the wall.

“That’s all you want to know? Such a trivial thing?” Jenn’s voice contained a trace of disappointment.

“At times some small thing can tell a lot more about a person than their whole autobiography.”

“Hmm…” She put the nail file aside and focused her stare for a while on the reproduction. “I honestly don’t know, Adam, what is so interesting in this story. But if you want… For as long as I can remember, I loved ballet. I adored it. I convinced my parents to allow me to take ballet lessons professionally in a studio. My parents and I had constant conflicts because of this. It was shame for them; a daughter from an orthodox Jewish family—instead of wearing a long skirt, reading religious books, and helping her mother around the house—gets almost completely undressed and shows the world her legs and ‘tuchus.’ Do you know what ‘nafkeh’ means in Yiddish? Yes, yes it means a loose woman, a whore, to put it simple. My parents always set my older sister Sarah as an example for me since she was a very proper girl. This family war lasted for years, but at sixteen I had already danced my first roles, and at seventeen I received a special prize at the New York youth ballet festival for my role as Odette in Swan Lake. I got admitted to the Ballet Institute, but…” Jenn trailed off with a sad smile.

“You were forced to marry against your will, and your husband turned out to be an insensitive bore who understood nothing of the arts. And your career as a dancer was over, right?” I guessed.

“No. My husband really did not understand anything of the arts, but at that time it didn’t matter to me. He was an orthopedist, and if not for him I would have been disabled my whole life. I was in a car accident. Thankfully I survived, and got off with a few serious fractures. After that, I never get behind the wheel. This is the whole story. Nothing interesting, I warned you.” She threw a peering look at me.

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